Amaryllis (Suitors of Seattle)

Amaryllis

 

Book Three in the Suitors of Seattle

 

By Kirsten Osbourne

 

Copyright 2013 Kirsten Osbourne

 

Kindle Edition, License Notes

 

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This is the third book in the Suitors of Seattle series. 
Broken-hearted after being abandoned by the man who loved her, Amaryllis Sullivan decides to give up on love. She begins a career as a librarian, hoping that books will heal her pain.  When Lawrence, an itinerant writer, enters her library, he tries to win her heart and take away her heartache. Amaryllis even believes he could be the one to fix her broken heart.

 

Alex Anderson, Amaryllis’s lost love, returns to Seattle and expects to find Amaryllis waiting for his return. Instead, he sees her with another man. Will he be able to convince her that he's the only man for her? Or will she follow another path?

 

 

 

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Prologue

 

 

Amaryllis couldn’t be happier.  She was about to become an aunt for the very first time, and she was in love.  She sighed happily.  She’d never imagined it would be possible to find the love of her life at such a young age.  She was only fifteen after all, but Alex was nineteen.  He was usually off at school, but he was home this week and they were together.

Amaryllis’s love of the written word was almost legendary in Seattle.  She’d read more books than her teacher and all of her sisters put together.  Reading made her happy.  Almost as happy as Alex made her.

Alex was the son of a family friend, John Higgins, and though she’d known him all her life, she hadn’t really developed a crush on him until he was twelve.  He’d been one of the few boys in town not to fall at her sister’s feet, and that made him special in her eyes.

The day had been exciting.  She’d been spending time with Rose and Alex, and Rose had finally gone into labor.  It seemed like that baby would never come.  Alex ran to get Dr. Shawn, Rose’s husband, and Shawn had broken Alex’s nose.  Now Shawn and Alex were off talking in low voices.  Amaryllis hoped that Shawn was apologizing, because really, who punched the man that had just run all the way across town to tell you your wife was in labor?

Alex walked back to the parlor and resumed his seat beside Amaryllis on the sofa, taking her hand in his.  Amaryllis smiled at him, so happy to be with him.  She loved getting letters from him every day, of course, but having him beside her was so much better than that. 
“What did Shawn want?” she asked softly.

Alex sighed.  “He thought I was in love with Rose.  Do you believe that nonsense?  And that’s why he hit me.  He just wanted to apologize.”  Alex lifted his hand to his nose
, which was swollen three times its normal size.

Amaryllis’s mother, Mary, rushed down the stairs to tell Shawn that he was needed by his wife, and then she
turned to the young couple on the sofa.  “Don’t think I don’t see you two sitting there holding hands.  Amaryllis, you are not to accept the suit of any young men until you are at least eighteen.  Did you forget our rules?”  Amaryllis flushed at her mother’s stern look.  Couldn’t she wait until they were alone to scold her?

“No, Mama.  I didn’t forget.  It’s just that it’s
Alex
.”  She clutched Alex’s hand even tighter, as if afraid he’d be torn from her.

Mary shook her head.  “I know it’s Alex, and honestly, I can think of no other young man I want for a son-in-law more than Alex.  As soon as you’re eighteen, you’ll be free to pursue a relationship with him.  But not now.”

Alex looked down.  “It’s my fault, Mrs. Sullivan.  I have been sending her letters through Rose.”  His voice sounded humbled.

Amaryllis could have kicked him.  Why was he admitting to anything?  She shook her head.  Mama was going to make a relationship impossible now.

“I don’t mind if you two exchange letters, but there will be no hand-holding, no sneaking around to see each other, and no touching of any sort until she’s eighteen.  Have I made myself clear?”  Mary put her hands on her ample hips, letting the young couple know she meant what she said.  “And now I’m going back upstairs to help my oldest daughter give birth.” 

Alex looked at Amaryllis, pulling his hand away.  “I don’t want to do anything to upset your parents.”

Amaryllis sat back against the sofa and sighed.  “I knew she’d ruin it if she could.”  She looked at him in the dim light.  “You’ll still write?”

He nodded briskly.  “From now on, though, I’ll write to you at your parents’ house and not through your sister.”
  His eyes didn’t meet hers though, and her heart fell.

 

Seattle, 1891

 

Chapter One

 

 

Amaryllis looked around the library to be certain there were no patrons there before stepping into the washroom.  She straightened her blond hair back into a perfect bun atop her head and pushed her spectacles up her nose.  She’
d been the librarian at Seattle’s only library for a year now, and she loved her work.  Even on days like today, when no one was there.

She stepped back out in
to the library and picked up a stack of books that needed re-shelving.  She was always amazed at how perfectly intelligent people were incapable of returning books to their correct order on the shelf.  She’d asked that everyone just put the books they’d looked at on the corner of her desk instead of even trying to re-shelve them.

Glancing at the watch she had pinned to her bosom, she mentally calculated.  The students from the small school down the road would be arriving in a few minutes, and she didn’t want to be tied up in the stacks when they got there.  She planned to read them a
chapter from a book, and after allow them to choose one to read quietly.  They were all allowed to get library cards if they wanted, but they would have to do that when their parents were with them.

Her head jerked toward the door as she heard the bell over it ring.  She put on her best librarian smile.  “May I help you?”

A tall slender blond man walked into the library looking around.  “I’m a writer doing some research on the history of the Seattle area.   I hope to set a book here.  Can you help me?”

“I would love to.  Are you looking for recent history, like settlements, or what we know of the local Indian tribes?”  She hurried to the small local section she’d set up for people interested in the history of the area.

“Mainly the early settlers, but some Indian flavor would be good as well.”  He followed her to the section she indicated and perused the titles of the books.  “If you wanted a good book for overall history, which would you start with?” he asked.

Amaryllis didn’t hesitate as she plucked a book from the shelf and handed it to him.  “This one.  There’s not another that has half as much information.”
  She put on her best librarian smile as she looked up at him.

He nodded, smiling down at the book in his hand.  “Perfect.  Thank you.”  He walked to the checkout desk with her.  “I haven’t used the library here before.  May I check out a book if I’m just visiting Seattle?”

Amaryllis shook her head slowly.  “I’m terribly sorry, but you must be a resident of the area.  Where do you live?”  If it was close, maybe she could bend the rule, but she didn’t usually bend rules for anyone.

He shrugged.  “I don’t really live anywhere.  I travel around looking for interesting places to write about. I tend to stay in one place only long enough to research it and move on.”

“Hmm…You’ll have to do your research here in the library then.”  She pointed at a small table off to the corner of the library.  “You’re welcome to use that table and pen and paper, if you need to.”

“No, I brought supplies with me thinking that might be the case.”  He held his hand out to her.  “I’m Lawrence, by the way.  Lawrence Bennett.”
  His smile was wide, and his eyes danced at her.

Amaryllis smiled, shaking his hand.  “I’m Amaryllis Sullivan.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Miss Sullivan.”  He walked in the direction of the table she’d indicated.  “I’m certain we’ll be seeing a lot of each other as I research my book.”

Amaryllis watched him as he took his seat at the table and walked back to the front desk
, because it was time for her class.  She set down the books she had planned on shelving.  She could do that later.  She always stayed late, because it felt so good to be alone in a room full of books. 

As the children filed in, she picked up the book she’d been reading to them.  She read a chapter of
Tom Sawyer
every week
.
  Most of the children were amused by young Tom’s antics, but there were always a few boys who seemed to have a look in their eyes that said they were going to try some of Tom’s tricks on others.

When she finished the chapter, she explained how books are organized in a library, because their teacher was getting ready to have them do a research project.  She hurried around helping them all until their hour was up, and then she all but fell back into her chair, exhausted.  The one day per week she had the children was always exhausting for her. 

She reached under her desk and pulled out her lunch, a sandwich and an apple.  The cook at her parents’ house sent the same thing every day, which was fine with Amaryllis.  She pulled the book she was reading to her and found the mark, picking up where she’d left off.

She was deep into her story, a love story of course, when she heard a throat clearing.  She jumped several feet.  “Oh, Mr. Bennett.  I’d forgotten you were here!”  She put her hand to her heart, breathing steadily, trying to calm herself.

He chuckled softly.  “That’s not surprising with that group of children you were helping.”  He stood looking down at her for a moment, before clearing his throat again, a habit that Amaryllis was starting to find slightly annoying.  “Well, Miss Sullivan, we seem to have a lot in common.”

Amaryllis frowned.  “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Bennett.” 
How could he say that when he knew nothing about her?

He chuckled.  “A mutual love of literature.”  He nodded to the book she was reading.  “
I was wondering, since I don’t know anyone else in town, if you’d be willing to accompany me to dinner this evening.”

She contemplated that for a moment.  Did she really want to spend time with someone she barely knew?  Yes, they both enjoyed books, but was it enough to build a friendship on?  “Yes, I’ll go to dinner with you,” she finally said.  She was nineteen, and her parents had long since agreed that she could accompany men on occasion.  She just never had.
  A small part of her heart had never given up on Alex, but she didn’t think she’d allow him to court her if he ever came back.  It was just… there was no one else like him.  How could another man compare to her first love?

Mr. Bennett’s face lit up.  “I’d like that a great deal.  Shall I call for you around six?”

Amaryllis pulled a pencil from her drawer and jotted her address on a piece of scrap paper.  “That would be fine.  I look forward to seeing you then.”  She returned to her book as he left the library.  No, he wasn’t her dream man, but her dream man didn’t want her now. So she had every right to be courted by someone else.

She sighed, wishing things were different.  She’d never forget the day she’d been working at the battered women’s home and overheard a conversation between Alex’s parents. 

“I got a letter from Alex this morning!” Mildred, Alex’s mother, told Higgins.

Higgins had stopped and smiled down at his wife, whom he obviously loved.  “What does it say?”

“Well, you know how hard it’s been for him at school, not knowing anyone.  He was fine as long as he was writing to Amaryllis, but she’s not allowed to think of him as her suitor any longer, and he’s been frustrated by that.”

Amaryllis had frowned
, looking down at her hands.  She wanted so badly to be the girl Alex thought of as his own. 

“Of course.  He’s been doing well with his studies, though.”

“Of course he has, but he met a lady who has been keeping him busy.  Her name is Sarah, and from what he tells me, she’s a remarkable woman.”

Amaryllis hadn’t been able to listen to another word.  She’d turned and run from the house to the park in the center of Seattle, ignoring the rain as it made small puddles on her glasses.  She loved Alex, and he was seeing someone else?  How could that be?

She’d stayed out in the rain for hours that night, and finally, just before bedtime, she’d sneaked into the house and up the stairs.  Her mother had spotted her immediately.  “Amaryllis!  Where have you been?  You’re soaked to the skin!”

“I was at the park, Mama.  I needed to be alone for a bit.”  She ignored the frown on her mother’s face and went into her bedroom.  Obediently, she’d bathed in the tub of hot water her mother had sent up
, and she’d changed into her nightgown.  Her stomach growled at her, but she hadn’t cared.  Her life was over.  Her soul mate had moved on.

Amaryllis shook her head and crunched another bite from her apple.  That was two and a half years ago.  She’d written to him the following day and told him she was too young to have a man in mind to marry.  She knew inside that she didn’t really feel that way, but as long as Alex believed it
that was all that mattered to her.

His letters to her, which had been coming fewer and further between, had stopped entirely after that.  She missed him with every fiber of her being, and she knew that
she would never find another man who would suit her like Alex had, but she was willing to think about other men now.  She wanted children.  Her nephew and niece made her think more about babies every day. 

Was Lawrence Bennett the man she’d spend her life with?  Probably not, but she could at least contemplate it.  Couldn’t she?

 

*****

 

When Amaryllis told her mother she was having dinner with a man that evening, Mary was ecstatic.  “What’s his name?  What does he do?”
  Mary’s eyes sparkled as she enthused about the idea of Amaryllis finally seeing a man.

“His name is Lawrence Bennett, and he’s a writer.  I really don’t know much more about him, except that he’s only in town for a short while, and I’m having dinner with him.”

Mary frowned.  “We need more information than that for your aunt to investigate him.”

“Mama, I said I was having dinner with him, not that I was going to run off and marry him next week.”  Amaryllis climbed the stairs, planning on changing
into a prettier dress and redoing her hair before dinner.

“Wait!  You can’t just go
to dinner with any strange man you meet!”

Amaryllis turned to her mother halfway up the stairs.  “I’m an adult now.  I’m over eighteen.  If things get serious between us, I’ll let you know and you can tell Aunt Harriett.  Until then, I’m just going to enjoy a meal with someone who loves books as much as I do.”  She ignored her mother’s calls of “Amaryllis!” and shut her bedroom door.  Really, why was her mother still so overprotective of her?  She was nineteen for God’s sake, and she knew how to be careful.

She was waiting in the parlor when the knock came at the front door.  She didn’t hurry to get it, but she did stand and walk toward the door.  Her sister, Jasmine, was there first as usual.  “Hi, I’m Jasmine.  Welcome to the garden.  Come in!”  Jasmine’s eyes were twinkling up at the man.

Amaryllis smiled at Lawrence. “This is my sister, Jasmine.”

Lawrence nodded, smiling.  “Oh, another flower name.  That’s sweet.”

Jasmine burst out laughing.  “There are eight flower names, but only six left at home.  There’s Rose, Lily, Amaryllis, Daisy, Jasmine, Hyacinth, Violet and Iris.”  She grinned up at Lawrence like the deranged nincompoop she was.

Lawrence stared at her in confusion.  “So all of your sisters have flower names?  Are there any boys?”

Jasmine shook her head.  “Nope, just us flowers making up a garden together.  Don’t you think eight children is enough?  Should I tell Mama she needs to have more babies?”

Lawrence held his hands up as if to ward Jasmine off.  “No, that’s okay.  Eight is probably plenty!”  He looked at Amaryllis, obviously hoping she’d help him.

Amaryllis smiled sweetly.  “Down, Jasmine.  Behave yourself.”  She stepped forward.  “Let’s go before any of my other sisters crawl out of the woodwork!”

Mary cleared her throat from behind Amaryllis.  “Oh, Mama, I didn’t see you there.  Mama, this is Lawrence Bennett.  I met him at the library.  Mr. Bennett, my mother, Mary Sullivan.”  Amaryllis made the introductions quickly, hoping she could leave without any further interruptions.

Mary smiled.  “It’s nice to meet you
, Mr. Bennett.  When will you have Amaryllis home?”

Amaryllis rolled her eyes, wishing her mother wouldn’t treat her like a child.  “Mama, I promise we won’t stay out too late.”

Lawrence smiled at Mary.  “Would ten be all right with you, Mrs. Sullivan?” 

Mary nodded briefly.  “Yes, that would be fine.  Have a nice time.”

Amaryllis stepped out into the warm summer air.  It had rained earlier that day, and now the humidity was making everything muggy.  She felt like her dress was clinging to her skin.  “It’s so hot,” she said as he walked her to the street.  He helped her into his buggy and drove her through the streets to the restaurant.  She’d eaten there with family members many times, but never with a man.

She felt extremely awkward
, wondering what she possibly had to say to this man.  After a moment, he came to the rescue.  “I heard you reading
Tom Sawyer
to the children today.  You really made the characters come alive.  I could see some of the boys thinking about how they could trick people like Tom does.”

She smiled.  “Thank you.  I’ve always loved to read, but feel like reading aloud is not one of my strong points.”
  Her eyes tended to move too quickly, and her mouth just couldn’t seem to keep up.  She felt as if she was constantly fumbling over the words.

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